entitled, “State of Immigrant Inclusion,” which explores key issues
in immigration and employment in the Greater Toronto Area
(GTA) over the past decade and a half.
The report found that the unemployment rate for immigrants
with university education is still double the rate for Canadian born
university-educated residents. The unemployment rate in 2016
was 12 per cent for immigrants, but only six per cent for people
born in Canada. This is better than 2003 when the rate was three
times as high. Things are getting better, but slowly.
Why are unemployment rates still higher for immigrant
professionals? Research suggests that not having “Canadian expe-rience”
– the experience of working in Canada – is still a barrier
for newcomers. In today’s increasingly globalized economy, one
would think a prospective employee with international expe-rience
and knowledge would be considered an asset, but not all
In 2013, the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC)
deemed that a “strict requirement” for “Canadian experience is prima
facie discrimination and can only be used in very limited circum-stances.”
Unfortunately, this declaration by OHRC has not been
enough to make the issue go away. Even though Canadian employers
face skills shortages and are constantly looking for
specialized talent in the labour market, there are still
some who apparently don’t see the value.
Newcomer professionals bring creativity, interna-tional
business knowledge and diversity of thought,
often leading to innovation that makes businesses
globally competitive. In fact, organizations with
ethnically diverse executive teams are 33 per cent
more likely to lead in their industries in terms of
profitability. However, too often newcomer talent is
being ignored and untapped.
Statistics report that immigrants with a Canadian
degree are doing better than those without: GTA
newcomers who gained a bachelor’s degree or higher
in Canada are more likely to be working in a job that
requires a degree. Newcomer women who gained
a degree in a non-STEM (Science, Technology,
Engineering and Math) subject outside Canada are
the least likely to be working in a job that requires
that degree. As a result, immigrants may begin – or
are already – paying for degrees and qualifications as a way of get-ting
around the Canadian experience – using Canadian education
as a “proxy” for Canadian experience.
Not having this coveted “Canadian experience” can lead to
underemployment – immigrants starting their careers here
in a less senior position to the one they were in back home.
Underemployment at the start of an immigrant’s working life can
mean it takes decades for them to catch up with their Canadian-born
counterparts. The unfilled potential and the resulting
economic impact of this hurts everyone.
As one of the stakeholders surveyed in the report put it when he
wrote about the four years it took him to catch up, “That’s four and
a half years of paying less in taxes and not being able to contribute
to society to my fullest potential.”
Employers would be better served by eliminating parochial
requirements like “Canadian experience” from their hiring process,
and better recognize the value of international experience and for-eign
education credentials. They can do this by gaining a wider
awareness and understanding of Canadian experience restrictions
and change how hiring managers think about credentials – both
Canadian and international.
HR professionals can leverage employment service provid-ers
or professional immigrant associations that can support them
in recruiting and retaining diverse talent. Roughly half of the
employers who responded to this survey for the report said that
an international credential would not get in the way of them hir-ing
someone, but that is still not enough.
There’s been tremendous progress over the past 15 years when
it comes to immigrant employment. However, more needs to be
done to see the prosperity for all people – including immigrants
– and to keep Canada competitive in the fight for global talent.
Let’s make the requirement for “Canadian experience” a thing of
the past. n
Margaret Eaton is the executive director of the Toronto Region
Immigrant Employment Council.
BRING CREATIVITY, INTERNATIONAL
BUSINESS KNOWLEDGE AND
DIVERSITY OF THOUGHT, OFTEN
LEADING TO INNOVATION
THAT MAKES BUSINESSES
16 ❚ FEBRUARY 2019 ❚ HR PROFESSIONAL